I am not sure when the idea to make a metal foundry first entered my head. Maybe somewhere around 2010 because I remember planning it out where I used to live. But it was in 2019 when I set my mind to doing it and I started building one.
It was on July 17 2019 that I happened upon a video of a guy making a foundry using common items that were easy to find. That’s when decided I would give it a try. I put the video below.
Building the Metal Foundry
I started building my simple homemade metal foundry in August 2019. My son was 100% onboard with the idea so it made a good father-son project for us.
But we never got it fully working that year because we were in the process of moving. So all our foundry stuff got put under our new house. At that point, I kind of forgot about it for a while because there was so much other stuff to do. Then 2020 was a crazy year for me that including changing jobs.
But this year in 2021 I was watching Forged in Fire with my son and that reminded us about my metal foundry. So we got the stuff out and went out and got the last part we needed.
I’ll add my parts list below.
Firing up the Foundry
First I hooked up the steel air pipe to the side. I angled it up with a cinder block in case of a failure and the aluminum started coming out the bottom. This way it would not flow down the pipe.
Then I hooked a common hair dryer to the end to feed air into the fire so that it gets really hot.
I put my crucible in the center and put common grill charcoal all around it and fired it up.
We put some aluminum soda cans in there and they did seem to melt a little but they never reached a liquid state. At this point, I was out of time so I put it all away. Then I started to ponder what I could do differently next time.
After thinking about it for a while I decided to change a few things.
- First I was opening the lid a lot to look inside. I bet that was letting a lot of heat out.
- Second I had the hair dryer on low. So next time I’ll run it on high.
- And third is to just give it more time. The first time I had no clue how long it would take and I ran out of time. So next time I’d make sure that did not happen.
Giving it another try
The next time we fired it up and we left the lid on. I also switched the hairdryer to high ones it got going. I made myself wait about 10 minutes in between lifting up the lid and checking on the cans.
It took about an hour but they turned to liquid. We added the rest of our cans and I noticed a bunch of junk floating on the top not melting. This is the slag or dross. I’m not sure what term is correct.
I pulled that out with some tongs and the molten aluminum was all that was left.
I remove the air pipe and turned off the hairdryer. Then I picked up the crucible with my tongs and poured it into my steel donut pan.
We were a little short on aluminum but this is the first cast I’ve ever done. Very cool!
Another try a day later
I got a bag full of used cans from my parents and the next afternoon me and my son fired the foundry back up.
We put the aluminum donut in the crucible and this time things seem to go a lot faster. Maybe because the donut ingot had more mass and was more pure than the cans? But that’s only a guess. It seem to melt in no time then we added a bunch of other cans.
Once they heated up we removed the dross and started to pour. This time we got 2 good donut ingots. But they also got stuck inside the pan. I had to hammer them out and I messed up the pan some in the process but we got them!
I made a video of the process of us making one of these donuts.
For now, we are going to collect cans and melt them down into a bunch of ingots. Ones we have a good number of them I’ll start thinking about casting something in a sand mold.
I also want to try to melt copper and from there try to make aluminum bronze. Maybe from there I’ll try to cast a bronze dagger or something.
Parts List for my metal foundry
I built this over 2 years but here is the part list as I remember it.
Stuff for the foundry walls
Bag of plaster of paris mix
Steel wool to mix in to make it stronger
Galvanized Pail/Bucket 10 Qts (The main body of the foundry.)
Smaller Plastic Bucket 2.5-qt (To make the hole inside the plaster mix when pouring it.)
5 qt. Big Mouth Bucket (used to make a lid.)
Hole Saw 1 3/8″ (To put an air hold in the bucket.)
4″ U-Bolt (handles for the lid.)
1″ x 12″ steel pipe (Air Pipe connected to foundry)
1″ PVC Pipe (the rest of the air pipe)
1″ PVC Coupling (Thread on 1 end and slip fit on other) (FIPT x Slip)
Hair Drier (provides air to fire)
Crucible (Were you melt things)
Tools and Safety
Gloves for picking up hot things.
Some kind of big bucket for water to throw hot stuff in or to put fires out.
I’d love me some aluminum donuts.